Interview Jodie Foster

Mousse and Louis are young, beautiful, rich and in love, but drugs have invaded their lives. One day they overdose, and Louis dies. Mousse survives, but soon learns she’s pregnant. Feeling lost, she runs away to a house far from Paris. Several months later, Louis’ brother joins her in her refuge.

Jodie Foster may have grown up a child acting but the two-time Oscar winner isn’t known for her taking on children’s films. Now the 45-year-old Yale University graduate is showing off her comedy chops in the family adventure  film ‘Nim’s Island’, based on Wendy Orr’s 2002 novel.

Nim (Little Miss Sunshine’s Abigail Breslin) is a feisty, young girl who lives on an uncharted island with her father (Gerard Butler), a marine biologist. Her only friends are animals and the characters in the books  by her literary hero, Alex Rover, the world’s greatest adventurer. But when her father is lost at sea and her island is threatened, she reaches out to him via email for help. In reality, the books are written by Alexandra Rover (Jodie Foster), and she’s a nervous, reclusive woman locked away in a big city apartment who reluctantly ventures out to rescue Nim.

We chat to Foster about her recent work, her new film and the tricks to surviving Hollywood…

How did you feel doing such a broad comedy after so much drama?

I don’t know why I don’t do it more often, except that people don’t want me for comedies. I think that good comedies are really hard to write but its fun to explore the lighter part of your personality, but I had to really knock down some doors in order to get this.

So did you really have to go after this role?
Yes, the directors were all for me but I think the studio was like, ‘Oh, really? Jodie Foster in comedy?’  I understand and probably would make that decision too but sometimes though, when an actor is really tenacious because they know that it speaks to them, you always have to be careful because you know that’s going to be the person you end up with because when all the chips fall down, that’s the person that’s still standing going, “I’ll do it! I’ll do it!”

Did you have to do anything specific to get into shape for the action and water stunts in this film?
My life is pretty sporty so I love physical movies. I loved the stuff I had to do in Panic Room and Brave One and I like being able to use my body in order to express myself, because it’s very primal and you don’t really get that opportunity in life. Certainly women don’t get that opportunity that often.

You said the movie has a nice message for girls; do you feel a responsibility to carry that to girls?
It touches me in that I was a girl, and that I didn’t know I could take care of myself. There really weren’t models for me, and it’s wonderful to see a young girl in a movie who climbs a volcano and fixes a satellite dish, and uses tools in order to build something. It’s great just to teach girls that they don’t have to depend on someone else, that they actually have everything they need inside themselves and it’s not about brawn, it’s not about having big muscles, it’s about their brains.

Have you ever envisioned becoming someone else like your character does in the film?
I get to fantasize about characters that I would play. I don’t know that I would live them for the rest of my life, but I definitely get to fantasize about characters that I would play. I always wanted to play somebody who had this expertise at something that they had to practice for their whole lives. Like a world-class violinist or somebody who speaks Portuguese and that’s something that I’ve never been able to do, which is to really train, and spend eight weeks, or ten weeks learning how to play the trumpet, or learning how to do something to play this other person. I think one of the biggest joys about acting that I didn’t realize as a younger person, but I
know now, is that so much comes from the physical. So much of what the character is really comes from what they do, and what their obsessions are, and what their physical obsessions are, so in order to prepare to do a movie playing a violinist, you’ve just got to play the violin and that’s pretty much going to tell you what it is. I like that idea, and that’s something that I’ve always wanted to do.

Did you offer Abigail Breslin tips because of your own background as a child actor?

Well, I don’t really need to give Abigail any tips, she’s pretty solid; she’s got a great family and she’s very well-adjusted, and she’s just a great kid. But there’s a lot about her that’s different than me. I can honestly say that I feel Abigail was born to be an actress because she has this well of emotion that’s completely available to
her. I did not have that edge; it did not come naturally to me, it was something that I had to learn, and as an adult, I’m not even sure I have learned that completely.
How was it shooting in Australia and how much time did you really spend on an island?
There was an island but we were on a sound stage for a really long time. There are a lot of exteriors where there’s no way you could do it anywhere but a sound stage. For example, to build a tree house like that – which means cutting live trees someplace – and being able to put a 1000-pound camera, and 75 people up there, you can’t do that in the forest, plus most of those shots were at night, so you have to have lights, youhave to have all that.

Where was the real island?
It was Hinchenbrook Island. It’s this huge, 300-mile island, and it’s completely uninhabited. It’s a nature preserve tended to by the regional Aboriginal tribes, and there’s one little hotel that has 15 rooms and they’re all in tree houses where some of us stayed. Otherwise, the crew came in from a hotel, and they came on a 45 minute-ride ferry everyday so they would arrive at sunrise, and they’d see this beautiful sunrise. The beaches are just long, long white sand beaches, and you just go out, and there’s nobody there so it was just incredible being there, such a blessing, and I’ve just never had a location quite like that.


What were the most difficult scenes in the film?

Well, by far the hardest stuff we had to do but in some ways, the most interesting and the most fun, was the stuff that was done in the tank. It was winter in Australia, so it was cold. It was 2 or 3 o’clock in the morning and I’m only wearing a tank top. I couldn’t wear a wetsuit, or anything like that. Then there were all the wind machines, and all the wave machines, and being underwater with all the scuba divers, and holding your breath for hours and hours at a time, was just so cool. You really felt like you went through something when you’re done for the day.

How was it working with this cast and crew?
One of the nicest experiences was watching Abigail change. She’s a great actress, of course, and she’s so talented. But she’s a kid from Manhattan, and she had never swam in the ocean before. She was a little bit afraid of things like heights too, so there were a lot of challenges for her and little by little, through the course of the movie, it was sort of like having like a really great kids camp, where she had to learn how to do all these things, and to get over her fear of heights. By the end of a take in the ocean one day, I looked at her and said, “Come on!” and we jumped into waves, and she had no fears, and she didn’t want to get out. It was just a different Abigail by the end of the movie. Gerry is a funny guy and I really had a great time with him.

Nim’s Island is in Irish cinemas Friday.